The far-right Proud Boys have been thrown into a tumult in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, with the group’s leaders facing criminal charges, their chairman exposed as an informant, and law enforcement investigating what role Proud Boys had in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Now, amid a brewing trademark dispute with their former lawyer, they might even lose the right to use their name.
On Monday, former Proud Boys lawyer Jason Lee Van Dyke, who holds the “Proud Boys” trademark, released a letter revoking Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio’s right to use the name. Van Dyke’s reasons for revoking the trademark rights included what he sees as the Proud Boys’ association with Nazi groups, as well as Proud Boys burning a church’s Black Lives Matter banner in a December march in Washington, D.C.
Van Dyke doesn’t fit the profile of a typical Proud Boys opponent. Van Dyke has an elaborately checkered legal history himself, including a temporary suspension from practicing law after threatening to kill one of his legal foes. Police claim Van Dyke once used Proud Boys to surveil his legal opponent, and was allegedly recorded by an informant laying out plans for a violent terror campaign against the man.
Van Dyke’s complaints that the Proud Boys are too close to white-supremacist groups is especially bizarre, given his own history. As recently as 2019, Van Dyke was reportedly caught on tape attempting to join The Base, a neo-Nazi terrorist group, before being rejected by its members as a “huge liability.” In the membership interview, a person identified by Vice News as Van Dyke can be heard praising neo-Nazi writers and discussing a crackdown on Jewish immigration.
“There’re plenty of people in the Proud Boys who don’t believe that Jews have a place in this country and they want to put a stop to it,” Van Dyke reportedly said in the recording.
Despite that, Van Dyke is now positioning himself as the defender of the Proud Boys name, accusing Tarrio of using the trademark to sell substandard Proud Boys merchandise and letting Proud Boys create fascist-style graphics using the trademark.
“Your license to utilize the ‘Proud Boys’ trademark for any purposes is terminated, effective immediately,” Van Dyke wrote in the letter to Tarrio.
Tarrio didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Proud Boys chairman is dealing with more pressing legal troubles, after being arrested in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 4 over the burning of the Black Lives Matter flag. Tarrio also faces felony charges in Washington for alleged possession of two gun magazines with Proud Boys branding.
Last week, Reuters reported that Tarrio worked as a “prolific” informant for law enforcement in cases unrelated to the Proud Boys, a revelation that has angered Proud Boys members and affiliated groups.
Tarrio isn’t the only Proud Boy facing criminal prosecution. Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs has been arrested for his alleged role in the riot, and several other Proud Boys have been charged over their own alleged roles in the attack on the Capitol.
Van Dyke declined to comment on the future of the Proud Boys trademark, including whether he’s trying to sell it back to the group.
“It’s still an ongoing matter for what the future might hold for the organization, if it’s going to have a future,” Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke briefly ran the Proud Boys himself for roughly 36 hours in 2018, but was ousted after accidentally revealing the names of the group’s “secret” leadership ranks by failing to properly redact the group’s bylaws.
Van Dyke claimed to The Daily Beast that the trademark maneuver isn’t part of a scheme to regain control of the group, insisting that he is “retired from activism.”
“I am way too busy for this malarkey,” Van Dyke said.